MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — An Interstate 5 bridge over a river collapsed north of Seattle Thursday evening, dumping two vehicles into the water and sparking a rescue effort by boats and divers who pulled three injured people from the chilly waterway.
Authorities said it appeared nobody was killed in the bridge failure that raised the question about the safety of aging spans and cut off the main route between Seattle and Canada.
"We don't think anyone else went into the water," said Marcus Deyerin, a spokesman for the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team. "At this point we're optimistic."
A man and a woman were reported in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries in the emergency room at Skagit Valley Hospital, hospital spokeswoman Kari Ranten said. Another man was reported in stable condition at United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, hospital CEO Greg Reed said. He said he didn't know whether the man would be admitted.
Traffic along the heavily-travelled route could be impacted for some time.
"The I-5 corridor is totally disrupted," said Gov. Jay Inslee, who went to the scene Thursday night.
He said work has already started to design detour, but state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson asked people to avoid I-5 in the area for the next several days.
Washington State Trooper Mark Francis said a portion of the four-lane bridge over the Skagit River collapsed about 7 p.m.
Jeremiah Thomas, a volunteer firefighter, said he was driving nearby when he caught something out of the side of his eye and turned to look.
"The bridge just went down, it crashed through the water," he said. "It was really surreal."
It was not known what caused the collapse of the bridge about 60 miles north of Seattle in Skagit County, but State Patrol detectives and the patrol's commercial vehicle enforcement bureau troopers were talking late Thursday night to a commercial truck driver whose rig was believed to have struck the bridge.
"It appears the commercial vehicle made contact with the bridge," Francis said. "Whether it was the cause" of the collapse or made contact as the bridge was falling "that will all come out in the wash. But it appears it hit the bridge."
The four-lane bridge was about 50 feet above the water. Deyerin said it appeared that two vehicles - a car and a pickup with the travel trailer attached - fell into the river. He said the water depth was about 15 feet, and that the vehicles were half-visible in the water likely are resting on portions of the collapsed bridge.